Monday, April 5, 2010

Formal Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate, Cross-ex part 2 of 5

This is the first "formal" debate in which I've participated (with rules and such). For readers who are on facebook, they may find both sides of the debate here. If others are interested, they may email me for a word document. The format, set by my opponent, will be as follows:

"Opening Statement period (~1,000 words each)

First Rebuttal period (really depends on the opening statement, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Second Rebuttal period (really depends on the first rebuttal statements, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Cross Examination - each side asks 10 questions (there is no limit to the response word count)

Closing Statement period (~2,000 maximum, otherwise below that number is fine)"


Question 3 (me): It seems you accept that Arminianism purports synergism whereas Calvinism purports monergism. Do you indeed believe grace necessary to enable man to believe but insufficient to cause them to believe? Wouldn’t the idea that ”man’s allegedly free will is the decisive factor which determines why one man believes in Christ and another does not” (cf. my definition of sola gratia provided in my opening statement) imply that you believe that believers are saved in part due to intrinsic spiritual goodness which reprobates do not possess? How do you reconcile this with passages like 1 Corinthians 15:10?

(Word count: 100)

Answer 3 (Arminian): Yes, I do believe the Holy Ghost enables [all] men to come to the knowledge of the truth, but the Holy Ghost in no wise a selfish act makes or for a better word [forces] the individual to become a believer. The individual is given the Word, and Paul made it clear in Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; et al., that it is up to those who believeth, shall inherit eternal life and salvation.

The keyword here is, πιστευοντι – because belief comes from the heart, it is [your] choice ultimately, if you would enter into a communion relationship with Yeshua, or perish. John 3:15 [Isaiah 45:22; Mark 16:16; John 1:12; 3:36; 6:40-47; 11:25-26; 12:44-46; 20:3; Acts 8:37; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 5:1-2; Romans 10:9-14; Galatians 2:16-20; Hebrews 7:25; 10:39; 1 John 5:1; 5:11-13]
(15) That whosoever believeth (πιστευοντι) in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Why are you declaring that 1 Corinthians 15:10 presupposes no free will of the individual to come into the faith? Why are you providing a presupposition that I am disregarding Sola Gratia? I do not declare that, “believers are saved in part due to intrinsic spiritual goodness”. 

If this were the case, then shouldn’t [all] come to the Gospel and be saved? Shouldn’t this be the case for Anton LaVey, in that he should be in Heaven right now even if he rejected the Gospel? You have missed the entire point in what I tried to declare in this debate above about how the regenerational characteristics of the human being are in proportion to our choice of saving faith (that is, faith preceding salvific regeneration) in the atonement of Yeshua. Once [you] come into and accept Christ – then Paul declares in triumph, “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Wesleyan-Arminianism has always taught that God has supernaturally restored to all men a measure of His Spirit through the grace that flows from Calvary. Prevenient Grace preserves the Sola Gratia and Sola Fide ideology as well. Man cannot do anything about his own salvation even in the sense of responding to it, except through the grace that is initially given to him by God! Richard Dawkins is a reprobate of this very fact, is he not? When final salvation is obtained, a person may look back and say, “It is grace that has brought me home”. 

Prevenient Grace dismisses all idea of any human merit for any act that man has accomplished, even in his act of free choice in believing for salvation. All merit is through the grace of God in Yeshua Ha'Mashiach our Lord. In this sense it is by grace only that a man is saved. At the same time the idea of the sola fide is preserved. Prevenient grace actually gives more place to the sola fide than can be found in the understanding of absolute predestination in my opinion.

Wesley went on to declare that if it were via absolute predestination, Sola Fide is thrown out the window because, “Unconditional decree excludes faith as well as works.” from a philosophical outlook. If salvation is by the decree of God then it cannot be by faith as a condition for salvation. Wesleyans believe that prevenient grace enables a person to repent and believe, and since a man can reject or accept more grace, his salvation is dependent on his faith in Christ, not on an [absolute] eternal decree. 

In conclusion then, prevenient grace not only restrains sin in men, but lifts all men to, a salvable point. He can by this grace choose more grace leading on to salvation, or he may reject the grace. Thus salvation is “by grace through faith”, and the whole plan is the gift of God.

“There is a strong logical connection between the Calvinistic notion of man’s total inability...and their doctrine of irresistible grace. Non-Calvinists also believe that man is totally unable to save himself, but we reject the idea that man is totally unable to repent and believe in Christ. Arminians have solved the problem with their doctrine of prevenient (preparing) grace, which does not have any inductive basis.

To use language of modern law, it would seem that the convicting work of the Holy Spirit gives opportunity for the one so convicted to plead either guilty or not guilty. A plea of guilty would bring an immediate reliance on the cross of Christ as its remedy, but a plea of not guilty would result in continued condemnation. Compare this with John 3:18. In any case, the Scripture is clear that man is responsible to repent and believe, thus implying the ability to do so. If responsibility does not mean response-ability, i.e., ability to respond, what, indeed, might the term mean? In no case is irresistible grace a necessary or viable answer. It is a solution to a problem which does not exist!

I would suggest that the doctrine of irresistible grace has been derived by Augustinians through a deductive process from the other points of the TULIP, rather than through a careful inductive exegetical study of all the relevant Scripture. The historical context of the favorite proof texts needs to be given weightier consideration, the presuppositions ought to be brought out into the open and examined thoroughly, and more careful study of the usage of the term “calling” needs to be done.” – C. Gordon Olson, Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: An Inductive Mediate Theology of Salvation

Words: 625, excluding quotes.

Question 4 (me): You agreed that faith is pleasing to God but maintained faith logically precedes regeneration. Paul, however, said unregenerates: 

- are unable to please God (Romans 8:8).
- cannot accept the things of the spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14, John 8:47).
- don’t do good nor seek God (Romans 3:9-12).

How do you reconcile these passages with your implication that a change in man’s very nature is unnecessary to come to faith?

Also, briefly address the distinction between adoption and regeneration (two pneumatological actions you conflated in your appeal to John 1:12) I noted in my second rebuttal.

(Word count: 100)

Answer 4 (Arminian): Faith does logically precede regeneration. 2 Chronicles 20:20; Psalm 62:8; Isaiah 7:9; Mark 9:23, 11:22; John 14:1. A philosophical outlook would show that if regeneration preceded faith, why has not God regenerated Anton LaVey, to believe and thus come to the knowledge of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach and be saved? 

To say that God logically makes regeneration to be before saving faith seems to imply a forceful action on [insert depraved individual here]. How do you reconcile the fact that there are indeed non-believers and reprobates that have died and are now awaiting the Lake of Fire – why did God choose to not save them? Likewise, why did God predestine them for this ultimate fate? Do not turn to me and say, “It was Gods good pleasure, and we do not know his divine decree and plans.”

Would this not seem that God is a respecter of persons? It is a no-brainer to see the impression of a Xerxes type God from a Calvinistic mindset. It is obvious that you would answer back that I am ‘emotional’ to ask such questions – and hence they are puerile in nature. I however digress on the fact that for me to give such meaningful and [concerning] questions, means that I see the loving truth in Yahovah and you do not. I love [and] wished for Anton LaVey to have come to the saving faith of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. I somehow think the Calvinist to be glad that Anton LaVey has been ridden of.

Psalms 86:5
(5) For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto [all] them that [call] upon thee.

1 John 4:8
(8) He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

In the entire context of Romans 8:2-8, it is to show us that the believer has been delivered from the Law, and the Law can no longer condemn him. When we compare your Calvinistic eisegesis on verse 8 towards Romans 14:23 and Hebrews 11:6 – it just flies into your presuppositions because it is faith first, through our depraved state in coming to Christ that thus regeneration, justification, sanctification, et al., will take place thereafter.

1 Corinthians 2:14 shows through the results of the fall, all the descendants of Adam are born spiritually dead. The natural man is a spiritually dead man. The remedy for spiritual death is to be made alive or “to be quickened” only when you make the choice of having faith in the Messiah, John 5:24
(24) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Isaiah 55:6 gives the admonition to seek the Lord, but Romans 3:11 does show that no one seeks God on his own. If this were a condition of salvation, it would mean that no one would be saved since no one will ever seek God on his own! Luke 19:10 does state that it is the Messiah who actually does the seeking towards everyone, but the autonomic mindset of mankind allows for him / her to reject the Messiah. Sadly this is the case as seen today, and in Matthew 7:13.

Imploring God is not a condition for salvation. It is never written that one must implore, seek, and pray for God to save him before God will do it. Furthermore, this is salvation by works. Salvation is emphasised as being by grace through faith. The salvation, which God offers, is simply received by faith; one does not have to implore God to save him. God is more than ready to do so. If one must implore God first, then salvation is by works.

Adoption means that the redeemed person becomes a son or daughter of God with all the privileges of being in God’s family. Regeneration is the act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in a man and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy. As I stated many a time in this debate, faith is the human requirement that enables the Holy Spirit to bring about the new birth. The new birth or regeneration will not take place apart from faith. John 1:12 and Galatians 3:26 specifically reflect this.

Words: 720

Question 3 (Arminian): When we amalgamate the acrostic TULIP into a real life scenario, it is best summarised this way.

Anton LaVey has premeditatively been foreordained to be totally depraved and because of this God [hates] him, even before his birth! 

Since he apparently had ‘no’ autonomic choices of whether to adhere to the Word or not, he likewise was indeed predestined to hell. The reason he is in hell is further clarified by the fact that God did not provide regenerational healing for him to turn and repent and have faith thereafter. More-so to this is the fact that Christ ultimately did [not] die and atone for Anton LaVey’s sins.

Now I ask you an honest question – how is it then, that Anton LaVey [deserves] this ultimate destiny without even knowing so (according to the Calvinist, he was an ‘automata’ to create the Church of Satan after all); that he will end up in the forever burning lake of fire?

Words: 158

Answer 3 (me): Preliminary remarks: 

- Robert’s assertion that TULIP is best summarized as he puts it is – honestly and generously – inane.

- No response has been provided to the “Anticipated Objections” section of my opening post, in which I explain how the “Puppet Analogy” is a poor, fallacy-riddled argument against Calvinism. Thus, when Robert says, “according to the Calvinist, [LaVey] was an ‘automata’…” such a statement can be dismissed without further ado.

- Robert misremembers or fails to cite the primary reason I believe reprobates are condemned. To wit: “in the same way Calvinists believe that election is an unconditional decree unto the condition (faith) by which one is justified, I similarly believe that reprobation is an unconditional decree unto the condition (sin) by which one is condemned.” Insofar as Robert is speaking of proximate reasons men are condemned, Robert should have, if he intended to faithfully represent my position, included that not-so-minor detail.

In response to Robert’s question, I think I have already answered this without contestation. As Robert did not think it necessary to respond to my “Anticipated Objections” section, I have no idea as to why he thinks it is an insufficient reply to his question. I noted that we are responsible because we have broken God’s law. We possess the image of God – rationality – by which we know, when we sin, that we are disobeying God, for God has made Himself plain to us. I have further shown that although Robert says no one is condemned by the sin of Adam, that is precisely what Romans 5:18 says. As an aside, it is ironic that to even begin to argue otherwise presupposes “all men” can mean something other than “all men without exception.”

In any case, responsibility does not presuppose free will. To further illustrate this, let us turn the question around. Firstly, why should we assume Anton LaVey didn’t know that his sin would, if he did not repent and believe, function as the immediate cause for condemnation? No reason is provided. Secondly, why should it matter whether or not Anton LaVey knew this? Is knowledge of the consequences of sin a prerequisite to sin? I submit not, and as Robert provides no reason we should think otherwise, I do not understand the gravity with which Robert asks the question. The burden of proof is on Robert to demonstrate in unambiguous, unequivocal terms exactly why men must know this or be able to do that in order to be held responsible for their choices.

Finally, God is never obligated to grace men. God’s priority is not to be a “gentleman” to mankind. God does not schizophrenically kill men He allegedly desires to save, as Robert believes. God does not synergistically cooperate with man such that salvation is of God and man. Everything God does is ultimately to the manifestation of His glory, not ours (as if we had any). It is with this in mind that I can truly say “Soli Deo Gloria!”

(Word count: 500)

Question 4 (Arminian): Scripture proves to us that man is represented in the image of God before and after the fall, Genesis 1:26–27; 5:1–2; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9. In Romans 8:29, Paul states that believers have been foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son. The image that was marred by the fall will someday be totally restored to its pure holiness. 

Anton LaVey was obviously born as a human being and like everyone else, had a marred image of Yahovah, because we are depraved in sin. If regeneration preceded faith, why did God choose to not regenerate LaVey, in order for him to be restored to pure holiness and to be adopted as a Son of God thereafter (1 John 3:1-3)? 

How do you reconcile this with passages like Romans 3:21-22; 10:4, 8-17; and 2 Peter 3:9, that show it was possible for Anton LaVey to accept the offer for salvation – because Luke 19:10 says the Messiah came to seek and to save that which was lost; for [all] are/were lost?

Words: 175

Answer 4 (me): In a recent blog post, I wrote the following:

//If someone would only tell a person struggling with answers pertaining to meaning in life that he is asking the wrong questions – if it is only kept in mind that God’s ultimate purpose in all things is the manifestation of His glory – his attention can properly shift to the right questions asked with a proper mindset… one which asks, not “why,” but “how” a given thing can function as a proximate means unto this ultimate purpose.//

I like to be consistent. It seems to me that I not only address Robert’s first question in this above post, but I had already anticipated it in my second rebuttal: why did God elect me rather than Anton LaVey? 

“The answer is simply that God has decreed all things to His glory. Robert can contend – but not substantiate – that a counter-factual world would more greatly manifest God’s glory.”

The question Robert should be asking is how God’s reprobation of Anton LaVey “can function as a proximate means unto this ultimate purpose,” and the answer is simple: to serve as a backdrop against which the elect can contrast the depths of God’s glorious grace to themselves.

Most of the passages which Robert cites have no connection to election. The passages in Romans state those who believe will be saved. Duh! We are justified through faith in Christ. The question in this debate is not whether those who believe will be saved but rather whether all men without exception can believe. None of those passages in Romans mention a capacity to believe. They mention what will happen if one believes. Confusing the effect of the fulfillment of a condition with the capacity to fulfill that condition is a mistake many Arminians make. 

Likewise, Robert’s interpretation of Luke 19:10 is an easily spotted fallacy. Christ came to save men who are lost; that doesn’t imply Christ came to save all men who are lost. It could easily mean Christ came to save some men – like the elect – all of whom are born lost.

Finally, 2 Peter 3:9 is a passage which, when read in context, actually shames Robert’s answer to my first question, for 3:15 says God’s patience is to be regarded as salvation. Why, then, would He would decree the death of any wicked man, if indeed He is patient with all men without exception? The answer: He is not patient with those who are not elect. It is His will that they should perish and not come to repentance. The elect who are at present lost are those with whom God is patient, just as He was patient with the elect who are now saved and recipients of God’s promises (cf. 1:1, 3:1, 9). Robert may object, but he has no answer as to why God’s patience with reprobates would not to be regarded as salvation or how God can be said to will their repentance without being patient with them.

(Word count: 500)

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